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Including a Sibling When Breastfeeding

Ann E. Butenas


You are expecting another baby. You feel somewhat more prepared this time around than the first time. After all, you have all the essential baby items, a finished room, perhaps, loads of baby books, and, if you nursed the first child, then you are probably much more relaxed about nursing your new baby. You feel confident in your abilities to deal with a newborn, now that you are a "veteran" at such things. However, your older child may present a challenge to you for which you are not prepared, and that will be in the area of breastfeeding. Bringing the New Baby Home

Once you bring your new baby home and settle into the familiar sleeping, bathing, eating, and diapering routine, your older child may express certain concerns, questions, anxiety, apprehension, or general curiosity about what you are doing with the baby to your breast. It may even shock you to realize your older child may want to nurse, as well. How do you deal with this? What do you do?

According to Carol Oakleaf, RN, CLE, IBCLC of Wee Care Lactation Services in Overland Park, Kansas, you need to plan ahead. "Before the baby is born," she explains, "you need to prepare the older sibling(s) for what is to come, what to expect. This preparation will vary greatly according to the age of the child."Explaining Breastfeeding to the Older Child

For the older child, you may try to explain to him/her that he/she was once nursed and cared for in the same way as the new baby will be cared for. This will allow the older child to have a greater sense of appreciation for the care he/she received as a baby. In addition, the older child can be given certain helpful tasks surrounding the breastfeeding activities of the baby, notes Oakleaf. It should not be something punitive or unpleasant, but one that allows the older child to share in the experience of caring for a newborn and assisting in the developing bond between the baby and the older child. "For the middle school and older child," explained Oakleaf, "this can be a time for passing on important values and behaviors which can be used and appreciated by them as they move into adulthood."Bringing Your Older Child into The Loop

Toddlers can easily feel left out of the attention loop, once a newborn baby arrives. The toddler will have little understanding as to why this is, but will realize that this baby is taking attention away from him/her and taking up everyone's time! Further, to the toddler, it does not appear that this new baby will be moving out any time soon! The toddler sees the baby getting all the attention formerly reserved for him/her. According to Oakleaf, there are ways to incorporate the toddler into the breastfeeding experience with the newborn. Actually, notes Oakleaf, breastfeeding is actually easier than bottle-feeding for this dilemma, as it takes two hands to give a bottle properly and with breastfeeding, it only takes on hand once the baby latches on wellor perhaps none at all."I Want to Breastfeed Too!"

If a toddler desires to breastfeed again after seeing the baby do this, do not be alarmed. Children are naturally curious. This is a very common desire for the toddler. The toddler may even have a recent memory of his/her own nursing experience. Perhaps they are still nursed a bit. "It is my personal opinion," Oakleaf said, "that the child's curiosity should be satisfied by allowing him/her to try it. This is a skill that is lost once it is not practiced., so it could be met with little actual success. But the desire will have been satisfied, and when replaced with something elsespecial to the child, it will be forgotten.

Just remember to show the toddler/older child that, as a parent, you havebeen given the tools to care for them, no matter what their age!

For more information on nursing issues, you may contact Carol Oakleaf

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Sarah Oct 18, 2017 12:20:52 PM ET

My exclusively bottle fed (still on bottle) 2year old keeps putting his mouth on my boob when my newborn is breastfeeding, like he is trying to copy. Yesterday he tried to squeeze his head in the same place as his brothers when he unlatched but, wasn't quick enough (he latched back on) I think he is curious and wants to try breastfeeding but, he hasn't breastfed before. What do I do?

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